Female impersonator Danny la Rue is bowing out of public life having suffered a stroke.

A close friend, Pat Lake-Smith told The Stage that “Danny has a stroke but without paralysis.” She announced the performer’s tour cancellation, saying “he has been ordered by his doctors to rest completely. He has great inner strength and is deeply grateful for all the kindness that has been shown to him at this difficult time”.

Born Daniel Patrick Carrol in Ireland in 1927, the man who would create one of the most famous drag acts of all time started his career in the Royal Navy Entertainments Group, moving into Variety after the war, changing his name to the more exotic-sounding la Rue.

La Rue puts his early success down to good genes: “I was lucky that when I was very young I was incredibly attractive – and that’s not vanity talking – I was very slim and I had long jet black hair.” His female impersonation act hit the big time when, “A man from the paper came to see the show I was in and he asked his companion, ‘Who is that beautiful woman working with all those muscular men?’ and his friend said, ‘That’s not a woman!'”

La Rue became the first female impersonator to star in a musical when he opened in “Hello Dolly!” in 1964. He bought his own nightclub, with regulars including Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Noel Coward, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dame Elizabeth Taylor.

Sadly, the star’s recent illness means that he will be unable to fulfil his wish to “die backstage.”